We have officially begun the new year which means we can now take a look back at the best films 2018 had to offer. Last year was a good year for movies, and narrowing it down to 10 is certainly no easy task. In no way am I saying that the following ten films are the absolute best of 2018. This list is my personal opinion of the ten best films of 2018. The technical merits of each film are certainly considered, but I am not an expert. With that in mind let’s get to it…
- Eighth GradeWhat is there to say about this movie that hasn’t been said? This is the best film of 2018. In his directorial debut Bo Burnham managed to deliver one of the 2018’s most heartbreaking, yet endearing films. I laughed, I cried, I cringed, and I felt inspired. Bo Burmham uses an awkward and painful stage of life as a vehicle to discuss and portray larger issues such as a the role of social media in our lives, a sense of belonging, the approval of others, and most importantly: anxiety disorders. This is a film that I wholly believe our society needed as Eighth Grade portrays anxiety in a way that no other film has before. Eighth Grade is more likely to resonate with certain viewers more than others, but it is still a deeply important film with its haunting portrayal of anxiety and what it’s like to struggle with it. Thanks to a fantastic performance from Elsie Fisher, Burnham’s natural direction and a perfectly written script by Burnham (seriously, how did he write an eighth grade girl so well?), Eighth Grade was one cinema’s greatest triumphs in 2018.
- A Quiet PlaceSimilar to Get Out last year, A Quiet Place is a film that couldn’t stop thinking about from the moment I saw it. A Quiet Place is not only an example of masterful filmmaking, but it is thrillingly entertaining. It is nice to see the trend of original horror films continue as director John Krasinski gave us one of the best films of 2018. While a suspension of disbelief is required, I had absolutely no problem buying into this movie’s premise. The use of sound design and sound mixing is nothing short of incredible. The sparse amount of dialogue allowed John Krasinski and the filmmaking crew to tell the film’s narrative through visuals, sound, and American Sign Language. Even if you thought the idea of the monsters was silly you have to respect the craft of this movie. Emily Blunt unsurprisingly gives a great performance as does the rest of the cast, John Krasinski proves that he may just be a more interesting director than he is an actor, and overall A Quiet Place is easily one of the most exciting and unique moviegoing experiences of the year. Oh, and this film also proved you can watch a movie, enjoy it, and read subtitles at the same time.
- The FavouriteThe Favourite won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but I really enjoyed this movie. Director Yorgos Lanthimos returns with a more overtly funny film this time as opposed to his previous absurdist dark comedy work like The Lobster (which was in my top 10 for 2016). Despite being a period piece this might be Lanthimos’ most relevant work to date. This film is a comedic send up of the detached nature of royals that is fully brought to life thanks to a stellar ensemble cast. Olivia Colman steals the show but it cannot be overstated how great this cast is. Despite Yorgos Lanthimos not having a role in the screenwriting duties, The Favourite very much feels like his film. It is his voice in this movie and it features pristine direction. If you’re a fan of the masterpiece theater genre, I highly recommend you watch this film as it is clever, riveting, and a hilariously good time.
- First ManFirst Man was one of my most anticipated films of 2018, and it did not disappoint. Damien Chazelle returns to direct a thought provoking and intimate look at the first man to walk on the moon. Chazelle proves he is the real deal following up his previous Oscar winning films Whiplash and the masterful La La Land by giving us the best look at the psyche of Neil Armstrong. Ryan Gosling’s performance is a highlight as the role really lends itself to Gosling’s natural abilities. Gosling perfectly portrays the stoic, complex man that we never knew. The scale and size of this movie is impressive as well. It was thrilling to watch in IMAX. The scenes featuring space travel are where the movie truly shines – no film has portrayed the dangers and excitement quite like First Man. This film does a great job at giving us an idea of what it felt like in the space craft. Every hour was life-threatening and the trip itself was utterly perilous. It packs quite a punch. Damien Chazelle made a statement.
- Isle of DogsWell this movie was just delightful. Isle of Dogs marks a triumphant return to animation for Wes Anderson. Featuring a talented voice cast, Anderson’s perfectly symmetrical dollhouse aesthetic, and great stop motion animation – Isle of Dogs is the perfect blend of an enjoyable family film combined with artistic filmmaking. This is everything a movie should be. It offers an escape for two hours while also delivering a universal message about love and loyalty to our pets. If you’re a dog lover, this film is a must see. It is an absolute joy from start to finish. It’s quite something to see the magnetic effect dogs have on us. Isle of Dogs is witty, charismatic, and wonderfully imaginative.
- AnnihilationAnnihilation is a film that was unfortunately lost in the shuffle of the VOD experiment early in the year. Not a lot of people watched this movie, but those that did have no regrets. This is a thinking man’s sci-fi, and it should come as no surprise considering Alex Garland (Ex Machina) took the reigns as director. This film has beautiful visuals, visceral thrills, and strikingly weird. Although it can be pretty nightmarish at times, Annihilation is what science fiction should be: it has considerable thematic heft and will leave you questioning the human condition and your own self-destructive habits at the end.
- Sorry to Bother YouThis is the kind of movie you watch and by the end you find yourself feeling glad that it exists. Sorry to Bother You is the very essence of the art of film. It pushes the medium forward. First time director Boots Riley struck gold with this surrealist comedy that deals with themes of capitalism and false consciousness. This film features the best Armie Hammer performance and offers other great performances from Tessa Thompson and LaKeith Stanfield. There is one conceit in this film that you need to buy into, but if you do, I think it’s impossible not to enjoy this film. Sorry to Bother You is wildly ambitious, funny, original, and offers a fresh new voice from Boots Riley in a strong directorial debut.
- You Were Never Really HereYou Were Never Really Here is a haunting character study. Joaquin Phoenix gives one of his better performances in recent years. This is a lean movie. This is a tight, intense 90 minute minute film. There is no filler, and not a single minute is wasted. This film is unabashedly violent, but not a single drop of blood is wasted. Every brutal act in this film serves a narrative purpose, and that is perhaps what makes this movie so impressive. It is a taut movie with every single action in service of the plot and character. Lynne Ramsay gives us an uncompromising vision here as there is very little room to breathe, but the film is so compelling that you won’t mind.
- Hearts Beat LoudOne of the most genuine and heartfelt films of 2018, Hearts Beat Loud gives us a familiar but sweet take on the father / daughter drama. This movie may feel familiar, but it’s also comfortable, and it’s that element of comfort that makes this such a feel good movie. The film is also elevated by the chemistry between Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons, both of whom are at their best here. This movie is free spirited and shows how music can bring us together. Hearts Beat Loud may feel low stakes, but it is a wonderful look at the complex and fragile father / daugher relationship dynamic with music at the heart of it all.
- HereditaryYikes. All I have to say is yikes. This movie terrified me. I’m not the biggest horror fan, so for me to have Hereditary on my list speaks volumes about its quality. Hereditary is the rare art house horror film that finds a wide audience. It navigates some heavy themes such as mental illness, family secrets, alienation, and unwanted inheritance. Hereditary is so profoundly horrifying that I’ve only watched it twice, but both times I had nothing but respect and admiration for this film. Everything from Ari Aster’s direction, to the lighting, to the cinematography, to the score elevates this movie into greatness. Toni Collette also delivers one of the most emotionally disturbing and powerful performances of the year. She deserves an Oscar nomination for it.
I have a few honorary mentions that just missed out on making the list:
American Animals, Incredibles 2, Searching, If Beale Street Could Talk, Roma, and First Reformed.